I found this on the BBC Website a couple of days ago. It’s a post about whether collecting books is, in itself, worth doing anymore.
I collect books; rather I collect Tolkien books. I have done ever since my mum bought me an old paperback box-set of The Lord of the Rings sometime in the late 1970’s. I soon picked up the rest of the more common titles, Silmarillion, Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham, Tree and Leaf etc. But the collecting bug really hit me when I got another copy of Lord of the Rings albeit with a different cover. My mum mentioned something about me having already read the story inside, but it was the look of the book that I liked, so she bought it for me and, although I never read it, it took pride of place (for a while) on my bookshelf.
Over the years, I’ve been searching out the different editions from each year just so I can pop them on the bookshelf and tell myself “that’s another year you’ve got nailed!”. I don’t read any of them, I barely open them apart from checking the edition year and number. I keep lists of years where I’m missing a boxset, or a particular part of the trilogy and I track gaps in the calendars and desk diaries that I used to get as presents each Christmas. I did have around a thousand books until the turn of the century when a certain Peter Jackson released the Lord of the Rings trilogy so I’ve ‘had’ to extend my collection to include videos, DVDs, posters, board-games, trading cards, plastic characters etc. Fortunately, the hype over the movies has now died down (including The Hobbit) and I don’t know how many items I’ve now got. However I do know it easily fills five bookcases, three draws and countless shelves and boxes around the house.
It’s a pointless exerice, I know that. I’ll never finish and I know I’ll never get them all simply because the older ones are expensive and are becoming increasingly difficult to find. I once watched an episode of The Osbournes and was so jealous of Ozzie’s son, Jack because he had a first edition of the Lord of the Rings on his bookshelf in his bedroom. I know he’ll never love those books as much as I would, yet I know I can never afford to have them. (Jack, if you do read this and you’re bored with the books, give me a shout and I’ll pay the postage to ship them to the UK!)
Returning back to the piece on the BBC website, I don’t think the question about whether it’s worthwhile still collecting books can be truly answered – why should it just be about books? All sorts of people collect all manner of things; Pokemon, stamps, cars, thimbles – the list does go on and on. I think the reasons that drive many of us collectors on are far from easy to quatify, and even harder to justify. For some it will be financial drive, for others it could just be nostalgia. It really will depend on the individual.
For me? Well, my drive is a mixture of the love of the books and the stories themselves. But it’s also more than that, it was something that a young boy and his mum could discuss, something we could chat about and, as I grew up, my collection grew with me; it became a symbol of my relationship with my mum. Even when I could afford to buy my own books, my mum always loved wandering around car-boot sales, or second-hand shops and she was never more proud than when she’d come around and show me a book that I hadn’t got. She often joked that the collection was more hers than it was mine.
Now that my mum has passed away, I’ve lost that particular link to my collection and I have to admit the collection has slowed; the bond will never go away but it’s more fragile than it once was. However new connections do form; it’s now become something to catalogue and work through and I still keep an eye out for that rare 1940’s Hobbit with the unusual cover or the final edition of the unauthorised ACE trilogy from the 60’s. You never know, they may just turn up one day and there’s always a space for them in my bookcases.